The following is the second part of the Prime Minister’s Independence Day Message to the nation:
I not only envision but also plan for a nation in which the wealth of our nation is more equitably distributed. For far too long some of our citizens have sat on the sidelines watching so called development take place while their lives remain relatively unchanged. As we observe and celebrate the achievements of the past 50 years we have every right to be proud but we also have every reason to do some soul searching on where we might have done better and what kind of nation we must create.
What is the purpose of a society in which the landscape appears to be more modern but there is an absence of values? What is the purpose of children attending more schools, being better educated but are more prone to violent behaviour and the erosion of family values? What is the purpose of a good school feeding programme when children go home to bad parenting? What is the purpose of producing great local artistes with their unique genres of music, even inventing rhythms and instruments unique to the world, when we have not learnt to appreciate their value and would even celebrate our own 50th Anniversary by heralding musical celebrations from other countries? I intend to pursue specific ways to begin a transformation of our society.
Our character education programme launched by the Ministry of Education is one way we begin instilling values at an early age. And I wish to formally announce that Cabinet will be examining a formal parenting programme based on those which have achieved remarkable success in other parts of the world. We cannot change what kind of adults our children become unless we change the kind of parents we are and so many of us do not know how to cope with the stresses of our lives and the responsibilities of parenthood. Family life has changed from what it was 50 years ago but there has been no comprehensive, effective system or programme put in place to buffer the negative effects of single parent homes and stressful professional life.
I intend to examine ways and incentives through which more local arts, music and culture and sport can receive greater exposure and appreciation in Trinidad and Tobago.
Arts and culture
The erosion of what belongs to us must stop. Let us begin the conversation with the artistic community with all their abundant talent our nation is blessed with on the ways and means of changing things and together with government let us begin implementing the measures necessary. Again, what is the purpose of creating a better business environment, one that produces more value generating ideas and investment ventures when the value of life itself appears to amount for less by criminal elements? I believe the creation of a value-based society is one long-term way of beginning the changes necessary to do so. But I also believe that the short-term tough imposition of law and order upon those who today are bent on creating mayhem must be enacted now.
The Ministry of National Security has been sharing with me a two-pronged approach to dealing with this issue. One is a strong social programme that includes an intensifying of sports activity, mentorship, education, skills training and employment, while the other arm is about an aggressive zero-tolerance intervention in all hot-spot areas. Special units, new resources, surveillance technology and interception methods combine to make the strategies different and more effective. As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, crime is one of the critical areas which remains an unfortunate reminder of how much needs to be done to transform our society. This did not happen overnight. But we must see this as the dawn of a new day in changing it and I recommit my pledge here on the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago that every resource possible will be engaged and invested in turning the situation around.
I take this opportunity to announce that a major new phase of development that has been engaging our attention over the past few months will be revealed within the coming weeks. It will cover the most ambitious infrastructural and financial investment programme ever launched in Trinidad and Tobago, one that will become a beacon for the region. As you know the nation’s new Minister of Finance has been diligently planning the way forward for Trinidad and Tobago that will be worthy of the celebrations we mark today across the nation. This is indeed a new era, a new opportunity, a shift in consciousness and conscience. I am fortunate to lead a government that marks our beloved nation’s 50th Anniversary but I am keenly aware of the huge expectations of a population that has waited far too long over the past few decades to see the kind of changes needed.
This celebration and the well-timed recent inspiring accomplishments of our Olympic athletes allow us to recognise the value of what it means to be identified with the Red, White and Black, what it means to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and to know we have the ability to conquer all odds, to be the best in the world, to recognise in ourselves that amazing feeling that comes from truly acknowledging ourselves.
And in this acknowledgement all differences disappear, the power of who we are as One People emerges. Trinidadian, Tobagonian, proud, passionate, patriotic. If it were possible to package the spirit that flows across the nation at this time, all that we ever wish to become would be readily realised for there is nothing more powerful than a people united by a celebration and recognition of themselves. We were all so moved upon hearing our anthem play and our flag displayed when Keshorn Walcott stood on the podium at the just concluded Olympics; those emotions, that overwhelming sense of pride define us. Let it be a timely reminder now of what we truly celebrate today. A small but great nation comprised of different ethnic groups woven together through our arts, culture, cuisine and religion. And I am confident that moments such as these help us to be reminded that through creativity, innovation and collaboration, we shall reach new heights together.
At 50, this is our coming of age. It is not the time for complacency. It is the time for progressively redoubling our efforts to ensure no one is left behind. It is time for a new approach to politics—a more mature politics which is no longer defined by religion, race or geographical place or partisan interest but by policy that is not only even-handed and all inclusive, but also speaks to where we, as a nation, must be when we celebrate our centennial 50 years from now. Just as society was ready to embrace progress in 1962, now 50 years on, we the people of Trinidad and Tobago are ready to advance our democracy and inclusiveness. We are ready to welcome a new era—an era which sees Trinidad and Tobago moving forward as a dynamic, trail-blazing nation in our region and around the world. In his speech on our first Independence day, August 31, 1962, Dr Williams told us that democracy means the protection of citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights. He called on us to dedicate ourselves to these principles of democracy.
Now, 50 years later, in 2012, as we remain committed to fulfilling his mandate, we acknowledge that we are on the threshold of unparalleled social change and national development which embraces the politics of inclusion. Over the past 50 years we have risen up against systems of oppression based on racial and social inequality. We have protested against unfairness, injustice and exploitation. Just as we relegate the remnants of colonialism to the past, so too, we must now cast off the shackles of discrimination, inequity and inequality which persist in our beloved land. Our iconic national anthem affirms that our nation was “forged from the love of liberty” and pledges that “every creed and race find an equal place.” We must become a nation more committed to upholding human rights. Through a number of state mechanisms, we will ensure that the Trinidad and Tobago of the future is one where no one is the victim of stigmatisation or prejudice, and where everyone is afforded equal rights and opportunities and where the playing field is levelled to enable everyone an equal opportunity to pursue and achieve their legitimate goals and aspirations. This is the legacy I wish to leave as we begin this new period in our history. This is part of the foundation my government will build.
Strength in unity
But this vision cannot be achieved alone. We must all work together,the public and private sectors, labour, civil society, communities and individuals, to fulfill the collective aspirations of our people. We have all seen the spirit of determination and unity embodied in Trinbagonians. In times of hardship, we have come together and strengthened our sense of community.
Recently, in the aftermath of the floods which affected so many across our country, I saw solidarity and brotherhood in the midst of tragedy. I saw neighbours, friends, family and strangers helping those in need, offering comfort and support wherever they could. This is how I know that we will continue to stand strong as a nation and as a people. Our morale, our togetherness, our unity—these will carry us through any adversities we may face.
Reiterate call to action/conclusion
Fellow citizens, we are at a critical juncture in the history of our Nation. Fifty years of Independence have gone. I ask you what will be our legacy over the next fifty years? How will we be judged by our children’s children? Will we be found lacking? Or will we be heralded as the visionaries who did what was necessary for the future of the next generation? We have to continuously work for the changes we seek. This is how we will bring about positive growth in our nation. We must be determined and unflagging in our efforts to uphold the legacy left to us by Dr Eric Williams and Dr Rudranath Capildeo in 1962. And that legacy was to keep moving forward, to be tenacious and brave, and to take the necessary steps to secure the best possible future for Trinidad and Tobago. Not one of us can or should ever deny our ancestral past. Our culture and our traditions tell the stories of the many lands from which we came, of the many hardships our foreparents endured and of the successes they achieved. For the health of our nation, if there is any void in the recounting, it must be filled in the coming years. But today, all of us here are citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and because of our many roots, we are perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world. It is our widely varied heritage that has made us unique. Our speech defines us. Our cuisine defines us. Our rhythm defines us. Our passion defines us. Be proud of this. Be proud of what it means to be Trinbagonian.
We are now the co-creators of the present, paving the way for those who come after us. I urge you, fellow citizens, seize this opportunity for progress. You are living in an exciting new chapter and it’s in your power to carry our twin-island nation forward as a pioneer in our region. Our best days are yet to come and together we will usher them in. As we celebrate our 50th year as an independent nation, let us with confidence and courage, stand side by side, with a renewed sense of hope for the future. Let us recommit ourselves to the service of our country. Let us endeavour to live our lives by the inspiring words of our national motto “Together we aspire, Together we achieve.” And let us continue to solemnly pledge our lives to this our native land Trinidad and Tobago. I wish you all a very Happy Golden Jubilee of Independence. May God continue to bless each of you and may God continue to bless our great nation Trinidad and Tobago.